USA women's soccer
The United States team celebrates following Kelley O'Hara's goal against Germany. Reuters

Recap: The USA gets a huge victory to earn a place in the Women’s World Cup final against either Japan or England on Sunday in Vancouver. It was a win that owed much to some huge slices of fortune in the second half. Julie Johnston should have received a red rather than yellow when conceding a penalty that Celia Sasic then missed to hand the U.S. another reprieve. And the crucial breakthrough came from another errant refereeing decision when Alex Morgan was clearly brought down outside the box by Annike Krahn. Still, Carli Lloyd held her nerve from the spot and the U.S. never looked like relinquishing a lead that was added to by Kelly O’Hara’s finish after a superb passing move.

And while the U.S. certainly rode its luck, there is little doubt that, on the balance of play, it was a fully deserved win. Coach Jill Ellis has justifiably taken plenty of criticism for the team’s uninspiring performances through much of this World Cup, but she deserves huge credit for getting the tactics spot on in the biggest game of her career. The change in formation and a bolstering of the midfield allowed the U.S. to play with far more fluidity and control than it has in any other game in Canada. Germany may be the No. 1 side in the world, but it was second best for much of the encounter. Again huge praise must also go to the U.S. defense, which, despite Johnston’s uncharacteristic error in conceding the penalty, continued its remarkable shutout record and prevented Germany from even seriously testing Hope Solo. A 2011 final rematch could now await against Japan, but whether it's Japan or England in the final, the U.S., if it can repeat this performance, will be favorites to lift the trophy.

Video highlights:

90+4 mins: Full-time! USA 2-0 Germany

90+3 mins: The U.S. makes its final change, with Sydney Leroux replacing Alex Morgan.

90 mins: Three minutes of stoppage time standing between the U.S. and Sunday’s final against either Japan or England.

Here's a Vine of that O'Hara goal:

84 mins: Goal! USA 2-0 Germany – Kelly O’Hara
Wambach initially did well holding the ball up in the buildup, but Lloyd, the scorer of the first goal, was the architect of the second, beating her opponent in the box and putting in an inviting cross that O’Hara turned home in the middle for her first goal for her country. Surely now the USA is heading to the Women’s World Cup final.

83 mins: Germany surprisingly lacking in urgency with less than 10 minutes remaining to get an equalizer. The U.S. is holding onto its slender lead with a degree of comfort so far.

79 mins: And now Abby Wambach enters in place of Megan Rapinoe. The U.S. likely looking for the striker’s experience and ability to hold up the ball to help see it over the line in these final minutes.

77 mins: Germany finally makes its first substitution with Dzesnifer Marozsan coming on for Anja Mittag.

75 mins: The U.S. makes its first substitution with Kelley O’Hara, impressive against China, replacing Tobin Heath.

74 mins: The U.S. has 16 minutes to continue its remarkable shutout streak, which dates back to the first half of its opening match against Australia.

And here's Carli Lloyd scoring from the penalty spot:

Here’s a Vine of that penalty call, with Morgan being fouled just outside the box by Krahn.

69 mins: Goal! USA 1-0 Germany -- Lloyd scores from the penalty spot
Carli Lloyd does what Sasic couldn’t and finds the net from the penalty spot to put the U.S. into a lead with just over 20 minutes remaining. But it’s a huge slice of fortune for the Americans. Having seen Julie Johnston get just a yellow when she should have seen red, the challenge on Morgan was clearly outside the box, but the referee nevertheless awarded a penalty.

67 mins: Penalty to the USA!
Alex Morgan brought down by Annike Krahn, but the challenge looked to be outside the box. Lloyd to take the penalty...

66 mins: Morgan unable to find the finishing touch again! Klingenberg found the forward with a fine ball down the side of the defense, but Morgan’s effort from a difficult angle went wide across the face of Angerer’s goal.

Here's a Vine of that penalty miss by Sasic to keep the score USA 0-0 Germany:

63 mins: Germany is continuing its pressure, despite the penalty miss. This time Mittag sends a fierce volley wide of Solo’s goal.

60 mins: Sasic puts the penalty wide!
That’s a huge double let off for the United States. Julie Johnston made a rare error at this World Cup and pulled back Alexandra Popp after letting her get through on goal. It was a clear penalty and really should have been a red card for the U.S. defender having denied a clear goal-scoring opportunity. Having escaped with just a yellow card for Johnston, the U.S. then watched as Celia Sasic, the top scorer in this World Cup, side-footed her penalty wide of the post with Hope Solo having dived the other way.

59 mins: Penalty to Germany!

56 mins: A concerning time this for the U.S. with Germany now really starting to come back into this match. Could the Americans regret all those missed chances?

53 mins: This time Solo is called into action. A deep cross into the box is met by the head of Anja Mittag and, although the ball looks to be going wide, Solo makes sure by diving to get a glove to it on its way behind.

52 mins: The last couple of minutes have been Germany’s best spell since the first minutes of the opening half, but it still hasn't been able to test Hope Solo in the U.S. goal.

49 mins: Germany briefly threatened on the edge of the U.S. box, but Julie Johnston made yet another impressive defensive intervention in what has been a superb tournament for the young center-back.

47 mins: Chance for the U.S.! Carli Lloyd has a free header from Megan Rapinoe’s corner, but the midfielder puts it wide of Nadine Angerer’s goal. Still that goal won’t come.

46 mins: The U.S. continues where it left off in the first half, with a dangerous ball over the top of the Germany defense that almost released Morgan.

46 mins: The U.S. gets the second half underway. Can either team get a breakthrough before we head into extra-time?

Half-time Recap: After Germany came storming out of the blocks and put the U.S. on the back foot, it’s been almost all one-way traffic in favor of the Americans. The formation change and an infusion of energy has produced undoubtedly the best 45 minutes of the Women’s World Cup so far for Jill Ellis’ side. The only problem has been its failure to turn that dominance into goals. Alex Morgan has yet to rediscover her usual sharpness in front of goal and failed to make the most of a couple of clear-cut openings. Germany will be relieved to get into the break level, and the way it came back into the game against France in the quarterfinals will provide a warning for the U.S. if it continues to miss chances.

Halftime: USA 0-0 Germany

45+1 mins: Four minutes of stoppage time to be played at the end of this first half, mainly thanks to that earlier clash of heads. Can either Germany or the U.S. get a priceless first goal before the interval?

43 mins: Close again for the U.S.! Alex Morgan with some fine skill to go past Sakia Bartusiak cutting into the box from the left, but she rushes her shot and sends it a long way wide of the target.

40 mins: Germany, which has really struggled to mount any attacking momentum since the early stages, fires a shot at goal through Tabea Kemme but it goes comfortably wide of Solo’s goal.

37 mins: Intense U.S. pressure now. Morgan lays the ball off to Heath in the box, but some desperate Germany defending blocks the ball behind for another corner.

36 mins: Meghan Klingenberg hits a shot that deflects off the head of a Germany defender and causes Angerer a moment of concern before going behind for a corner.

34 mins: The first yellow card of this semifinal goes to Leonie Maier for tugging back Rapinoe.

33 mins: Both players re-enter the pitch as the match gets back underway.

30 mins: Brian still looks dazed on the ground, while Popp has a nasty-looking cut to her head. Attention continuing to be given to both players.

29 mins: Germany has a free-kick in a dangerous position close to the U.S. box, but the Americans defend it well. Morgan Brian’s intervention, though, ends with a nasty clash of heads with Alexandra Popp that leaves both players down.

25 mins: Already clear that the U.S. is so much more fluid and less predictable in this 4-2-3-1 formation, with Morgan Brian holding in midfield and Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath buzzing around Alex Morgan.

23 mins: There was a brief appeal for handball in the Germany box, but Heath’s effort appeared to come off the chest of the Germany defender.

21 mins: Germany’s pressure has now dropped and it’s the U.S. in command, threatening the opening goal.

Here's a vine of that Angerer save from Morgan to keep it USA 0-0 Germany

16 mins: The two top teams in the world are just slugging it out toe-to-toe in Montreal. Seconds after one side goes straight at the opposition defense, the other follows suit down the other end. The pace is relentless and it’s surely only a matter of time before the deadlock is broken.

14 mins: Angerer with another big save! Germany’s veteran goalkeeper again blocks with her legs, this time to deny Alex Morgan after the U.S. forward was played clean through by Tobin Heath’s fine pass.

12 mins: The U.S. is struggling to maintain possession because of the ferocious Germany pressing, but when the Americans do get the ball into the attacking third it looks dangerous.

9 mins: Megan Rapinoe, the best attacking player for the U.S. by far at this World Cup, pulls off a brilliant change of direction in the box, but her left-footed shot was tame and straight at Angerer.

8 mins: Already this is a pulsating contest. Moments after Angerer’s save, Hope Solo pushes a cross from Alexandra Popp over the crossbar.

7 mins: Huge save from Nadine Angerer! With the first real attack from the U.S., Julie Johnston gets to a corner at the near post and directs a firm header down low at the target, but Angerer does superbly to block it away.

3 mins: Germany wins the first corner of the game and it results in Melanie Leupolz putting a difficult header onto the roof of Hope Solo’s net. The U.S. still trying to get a foothold in this match.

2 mins: Germany causing the U.S. some early problems with its intense high pressing. Becky Sauerbrunn forced into some early defensive work in her own box.

1 min: Germany kicks off and the first women’s World Cup semifinal is underway!

6:58 p.m. EDT: The two anthems have been played and we’re ready to go. Can the impressive U.S. defense keep out a Germany team that has scored a tournament-high 20 goals so far at this World Cup?

6:54 p.m. EDT: The two teams now making their way out onto the field at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. Kickoff almost upon us.

6:35 p.m. EDT: There is only one change in the Germany lineup, with defender Saskia Bartusiak returning from her suspension in place of Babett Peter.

6:25 p.m. EDT: The big team news for the United States is that Lauren Holiday and Megan Rapinoe, suspended for the quarterfinal win over China, come back into the lineup, but Abby Wambach remains on the bench. Indeed for the first time in this tournament coach Jill Ellis has selected just one out-and-out striker in Alex Morgan. She will surely be hoping that, with Morgan Brian playing the holding midfield role and Holiday and Carli Lloyd being given greater license to play their more natural attacking game, the team will produce a more fluid performance than what has been seen from them through much of this Women’s World Cup.

6:20 p.m. EDT: Just 40 minutes until the USA and Germany kick off in Montreal. Here’s a look at the starting lineups for both teams:

Preview: The United States women’s soccer team has made smooth progress to the last four of the 2015 Women’s World Cup, but now a far tougher task awaits. In Tuesday’s first semifinal in Canada, the second-ranked Americans will take on a Germany team rated as the current best in the world.

It is a contest that would have been fitting for the final, but instead the U.S. and Germany will be meeting for the right to take on either Japan or England in Sunday’s title decider. It was to Japan that the U.S. agonizingly lost in the final on penalties four years ago, a defeat which continued its failure to land the World Cup trophy since victory on home soil in 1999.

But the U.S. has maintained its record of making it to the semifinals of every World Cup, although that hasn’t been achieved without plenty of scrutiny of the team’s performances. Coach Jill Ellis, who only took the job last year, has struggled to find an attacking rhythm among her chosen lineup, with the team’s progress instead being centered upon a superb defensive effort. Still Ellis was not the only one believing that a quarterfinal win over China contained plenty of signs that the team was heading in the right direction, despite the narrow 1-0 score line.

Germany excelled through to the quarterfinals, including a thumping 10-0 group-stage win over Ivory Coast and a 4-1 Round of 16 victory over fifth-ranked Sweden. But things got a whole lot more complicated in the quarterfinals when going up against another of the tournament favorites, France. Germany needed a late equalizer and then a penalty shootout to eventually prevail after a high-quality and tense encounter.

While Celia Sasic’s goal was crucial, Germany again owed much to the performance of goalkeeper Nadine Angerer. The 36-year-old, who plays in the U.S. for the Portland Thorns, will now go up against the woman with whom she has long shared the spotlight as one of the world’s premier goalkeepers, Hope Solo.

The match is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. EDT in Montreal.

Check back here at the kick-off for live score updates and video highlights from what promises to be one of the matches of this Women’s World Cup.